Panthers dismantle UMass for their first home victory of 2018

Shawndarrius Phillips (22) celebrates in the end zone as he scores his second touchdown of the night against UMass on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Riccardo Silva Stadium. (Gerard Albert III/PantherNow)

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director



History was nearly made Saturday night at Riccardo Silva Stadium as the FIU Panthers almost broke their program record for points scored in a single game.

The running back committee of Shawndarrius Phillips, Napoleon Maxwell and D’Vonte Price carried the Panthers to a 63-24 victory over the UMass Minutemen as the trio totaled 281 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns.

“Offensively we got on a roll tonight. We were able to run the football which makes you dangerous,” said Panther head coach Butch Davis. “If they have to load the box and try to stop the run then it gives you opportunities in the passing game.”

With the win, FIU (2-1) secured their first home victory of the season, while the Minutemen (1-3) continued their road losing streak.

The Panthers got off to a fast start with them scoring two consecutive touchdowns to take an early 14-0 advantage.

On their first drive, Phillips fueled the opening score by totaling 56 of the team’s 59 total yards. The junior capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown.

Phillips finished the game with 124 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.

Running back Napoleon Maxwell put another touchdown on the board in the first quarter as he punched the ball in the end zone on a three-yard rush.

Minutemen quarterback Ross Comis responded to the Panthers’ early touchdowns by scoring on a 10-yard keeper just before the end of the first quarter.

UMass began the night with redshirt senior Andrew Ford in at starting quarterback. However, after lack of offensive production, the Minutemen switched to Comis.

Panthers quarterback James Morgan efficiently distributed the ball to the teams’ weapons and finished the night with two touchdown passes and only one interception.  

Freshman tight end Sterling Palmer hauled in his first career TD pass as he expanded the Panthers’ lead to 28-10.

Morgan followed up on the next drive by connecting with wide receiver Maurice Alexander on a 38-yard touchdown pass.

Alexander caught his second touchdown since switching to the receiver position.

“When Maurice came to us and said that he liked to move positions and go to wide receiver, we thought that he potentially has the athletic skills to be a dynamic kid,” Davis said. “Whether it’s as a receiver or a returner.”

The transfer from Bowling Green potentially cemented himself as the team’s starter with Christian Alexander seeing limited playing time tonight at the conclusion of the game.

Sophomore D’Vonte Price continued the success on the ground for the Panthers as he scored his first touchdown of the year on a three-yard run.

FIU tied their program record for most points scored in a first half with 42. The Panthers first accomplished the feat in 2015 when they defeated UTEP 52-12.

Following two turnovers to open the second half, Maurice Alexander got the Panthers back on track by returning a punt 69-yards for a touchdown.

Freshman linebacker Rocky Jacques-Louis joined Palmer as one of the players in the game to score their first career touchdowns by picking off UMass’ Michael Curtis in the third quarter and returning it 59-yards.

Curtis was sent in to relieve Comis towards the conclusion of the first half.

Maxwell recorded the record-tying touchdown for the Panthers as the redshirt senior ripped off a 17-run to end the scoring frenzy.

Maxwell also had over a 100-yards rushing along with two touchdowns.

Next, up for the Panthers, the team will take a small trip to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens to face the Miami Hurricanes. Kickoff is set for Saturday, Sept. 22, at 3:30 p.m.

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